People use social media to talk to each other? That’s amazing!

on February 12th, 2010 by Richard Orelup in General
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So finally got a chance today to check out what’s going on with the Twitter peeps and seems I missed a giant debate on what hashtag people in Northwest Indiana should use, #nwi or #nwindiana. Most people seem to use #nwindiana that I have noticed but didn’t really care much.

This morning then an article was posted on Valpo Life about how we should all standardize to one (their choice was #nwi) so that it’s easier to track everything and shorter overall. Lots of people put in their 2 cents and overall. I think the end of the conversation comes when the Times (who own nwi.com and @nwi) brought up that it could be confusing to peeps who think it’s related to them. After that people began to throw in the towel and it seems like #nwindiana won.

Now with all that out of the way, lets get to why I’m even talking about this. When I finally checked twitter all I was seeing was tweets about how this debate showed the “power of community” and “speed of social / new media.” That would be great if that was even close to the truth.

People love to say how powerful and fast social media is and there are some great examples of this out there (Hudson River Crash) but most the time this is far from the truth. Lets look at the speed issue of this, here is the first tweet about the issue and the first where I see someone saying that it is over.

As you can see it was over 20 hours from the first mention to the finale. Almost a full day of time. I’d love to see anyone argue that this is fast. I’ll get into this more when I talk about other sources that are just as quick.

Here is what is the kicker about this whole argument, it’s already been had. Nate admitted it’s been had before so this really wasn’t much of a debate. It was of the variety

Dude 1 : Hey lets go to BW3’s instead of Denny’s because I like wings.
Dude 2 : Well the group already decided on Denny’s because of <insert reason here> before you got here.
Dude 1 : Okay cool.

Not really much of a debate there. That wasn’t coming up with a decision but more filling in someone on something that was already decided.

After I mentioned I was going to write a rebuttal to the idea that social media is fast/powerful and talk about how this was more an example of the opposite Steve Dalton figured I was going to go in the direction of –

oh that ought to be interesting, I can hear it now “#nwindiana twitteratti make decision for rest of social media lemmings” – Steve Dalton

This made me laugh cause while I was going to bring up that very few were actually involved in the conversation, I had missed that most those people would be considered the “big boys” in the area for social media. If you search twitter now you can see who was talking about this subject and get an idea of how few people were actually involved in this. As well most the reasoning was put down in the comments of the articles not on twitter.

The participation overall was pretty minimal, but that would more likely be because of the lack of a real debate here. But for some people they might not even know most of the discussion is going on because they don’t follow people in it and aren’t watching the #hashtags. The “community” isn’t an all together thing because of the nature of the tool so to say it’s a community decision doesn’t work because not all could/were involved and probably because they didn’t know it was going on.

You are probably thinking to yourself, “Wow, you’ve not given me anything to think any less of social media.” Well, here it comes. “Social Media” didn’t show us anything special here. What was the subject we were talking about? Oh yeah something related directly to that service. Could this have happened elsewhere? Yes. Could it have happened just as fast? No, it probably would have been faster.

I’m not just talking about IM, IRC or email. Message boards (forums) and other types of communities have discussions that happen at the same pace. On top of that, it’s much easier for everyone to see the conversations going on and not have them lost in everything else. In this specific case, the new conversation would possibly have never even started because the person would have gotten their answer by searching or if they did create a new one one of the first links would have been a link to the old conversation. While these other tools have their issues as well, this is far from a case that shows off anything special with these social tools.

What it comes down to is that I’m just annoyed by the attempts to make Social Media out to be some amazing thing that is this whole new world that things can happen that never happened before. I wouldn’t even say these tools are more mainstream then others that were around in the past, we have more people using them but if there was this many people on the net back then those tools would have had similar numbers.

The problem is that a lot of the people who make these claims are either ignorant or have an agenda. Though this is really a topic for another day that will be told over at Innovative Visionary on the snake oil behind Social Media.

In the end, this is not an example of the power or speed of social media but really an example of using the tool for what it’s there for and that if you actually put some thought behind it you will see it’s nothing special or out of the ordinary. This isn’t a revolution or even an evolution but just a different breed of dog….shit :)

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